KICKING UP DUST
Native American drums beat an old rhythm from the past history untold. Then ships came
from the other side of the world bringing horses, cattle, slaves and steel. Elizabethan and
Puritan Culture from the Old World began to make its mark on the World. The beat began
to change, the tempo of time was speeding up...and the music makers were already
"kicking up dust."
The first Americans had their own brand of music with the drum being center not only to
their music, but also to their spiritual outlook on the world, as much of their belief centered
on the "heart beat" of Mother Earth. Music and dancing were part of their communication,
their beliefs and their spiritual ceremonies. To this day, with the great Pow Wow's that
take place across the Nation, the drum and the dance have been very important to these
The blacks are said to have come from Africa singing, dancing and drumming already a
part of their culture, and carrying over to their work. Music and singing became political
in the very early days of this land known as North America. Music with instruments hinted
of "popery," "pop". The drum, except in the military, was highly discouraged and frowned
upon. It was said that it created uprising and the Indians and slaves could use it to pass
1523 Galileo is tried before the
1533 Spanish arrive in California
1540 Cortez brings horses to
1619 Dutch ships land with African
1633 Galileo is released from
prison for his beliefs
As more boats and Anglo-Celtics began to arrive, and more settlers from the Old World
came across the ocean, we began to hear more songs from other lands. Most of the
music was old folk music from the people of these various European lands, and it was
usually sung more by the poor and general folks with very little instrumentation. It wasn't
long before the words to the old folk songs did not fit to the experiences of the New
World, so the words began to change. Blending with the Native American and African
drums was a new relative of the ancient instrument the Lute. Conquistadors, along with
horses and cattle, brought their version of the Lute to the New World, which they called
the Uihuela, or later know as the guitarra. The African slaves also brought an instru-
ment which they called the banjar. This later became the banjo.
A great storehouse of songs, stories, tales and lore of the British immigrants began to
blend with the new historical experiences of the people in the new world. The Catholic
Irish, Scotts, Welsh and others from Europe began to blend their lives with the native
populations and with the blacks arriving from Africa. A new life experience in this rural
and developing area began to change the people and their music.
Through time the churches sing their Psalms, the Native Americans beat their drum,
shake their rattles and play their flutes. The black slave's field hollering and the work
songs are heard throughout the South. The blacks dance and slap their bodies and
clap their hands, while the Indians do dances that remain part of their culture to this day
in time. The Spanish strum the guitar and sing of the cowboy life in the new West. The
trumpet blares from the military. We know that a regular theater was built in Williams-
burg and performances given as early as 1716 and the following years would see plays
performed in various areas of the new land.
Time passes in this new land. In 1735 the first opera performed in America, known as
"Flora" or "Hob in the Well," was presented in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1736,
there is the first fiddle contest here in America. "The American Magazine," which is
the first magazine published in the U.S. was published in Philadelphia, Penn., just 3
days off the press before Benjamin Franklin's "General Magazine." In the year of 1743,
"The New York Weekly Journal" published the first half-page newspaper advertising.
It is said that sometimes during this period of the 1700s the circus is brought to the
In 1750 a performance of Thomas Otway's tragedy The Orphan  was given in a
coffee house in State Street, Boston, by local amateurs, assisted by two professional
players recently arrived from England. The affair was such a novelty and the curiosity
of the Boston public to see the play so keen, that the doors of the coffee house were
besieged and an incipient riot took place. This disturbance caused such a scandal
that the authorities were compelled to take notice, and the General Court at once en-
acted a law not only forbidding acting within the Commonwealth, but even rendering
the spectators liable to a fine.
America would begin the early days of a period of time that would begin to change
not only the U.S., but mankind and the world with a discovery that would lead to an
invention. In 1752 Benjamin Franklin tied an iron wire to his kite and let it sail in a
lighting storm on a famous night this year, then in 1765 the steam engine is invented.
On May 31,1759 the House of Representatives in the Colony of Pennsylvania passed
a law forbidding the showing and acting of plays under a penalty of £500. It must not
be forgotten that while the great majority of the Northern Colonists were bitterly op-
posed to the playhouse on religious and moral grounds, there was a large and growing
class in the important centers who were burdened with no such scruples--people of
means and leisure who had only recently crossed the Atlantic and who, when seeking
recreation, naturally turned to a form of amusement highly popular at home back in
Europe...for "all the world's a stage."
The pace of man is ready to kick up some dust. By 1767, the Spanish colonize
California and in 1776, The Power of Sympathy, the first novel is published in the
United States. In 1790, the cotton mill is invented and nine years later a fellow named
Grauper wrote, "The Gay Negro Boy" the first minstrel song the same year George
Washing dies. The minstrel is starting to become one of the central forms of enter-
tainment in the North and the South. With the black face entertainers we are seeing the
beginning of a new form of "theater" and musical performance in the country.
The Native Americans are on the run and playing the drum to pass messages and
give the beat to their war dances. The plantation owners will not let their slaves play
the drum, because it allowed them to coordinate slave insurrections. This instrument
was banned in much music through many decades in the United States.
The blend of the cultures continued to keep the new "folk" music evolve. The new
German immigrants, Spanish, French, Mexicans in South Texas, and new mix-breed
population that was growing all gave new flavors to the music. Much of the history was
new institutions being born like the Post Office in 1775, where Ben Franklin became the
first Postmaster General. The following year the Spanish colonize San Francisco. In
the world of literature, in 1780 steel pen points begin to replace quill feathers. Two
years later the Bank of North America in Philadelphia became the first commercial bank
in the United States, another landmark in the world of literature happened when The
Adventures of Col. Daniel Boonby John Filson is published on Boon's fiftieth birthday.
The next year stagecoaches carry the mail between towns in the U.S. and Congress
establishes the dollar as the official currency. In 1786 a breech-loading musket is in-
vented as the first golf club in the U.S. is founded. The next year as the first steamboat
is launched on the Delaware river...A Constitutional Convention draws up a Constitu-
tion for the new United States of America.
Again, in the world of literature, The Power of Sympathy is published in 1789, and in
Europe the French Revolution has begun with the fall of the Bastille. In 1790, Ben
Franklin dies, and the first cotton mill is used. Another landmark in literature happens
when the first copyright for a book is given to The Power of Sympathy. Two years
later as Kentucky enters the United Stages of America as the 15th State, and the
corner stone of the White House is laid.
What can sure be seen as a early point in the history of the entertainment business,
George Washington attend the first circus which took place in Philadelphia. In 1794
Eli Whitney patented his cotton gin, making it possible to clean 50 pounds of cotton a
day. The U.S. cities were beginning to see the first mail carries on the streets deliver-
ing mail to homes. In 1796 Tennessee jointed the United States. A state that in the
modern world would have two historic cites to the music business being Memphis and
Nashville to be called "Tune Town" and serve as the home of country music. In 1799
George Washington dies.
The next half century the world and mankind will see time move faster than had ever
been experienced on earth. There will be more inventions and advancements in the
advance, or evolution, if you will, in the onward march of the civilization (or maybe it
was the beginning of the decline) than had been seen for thousand and thousands, if
not millions and millions of years.
At the turn of the century a letter takes 20 days to reach Savannah from Portland, Main,
and paper is just being made from vegetable fibers instead of rags. America is
growing. In 1803, Thomas Jefferson sends Lewis & Clark out to explore the West as
15 million people lived to where the Rockie Mountains where the West extended. That
year the Louisiana Territory was purchased from France. In 1805 Lewis and Clark
reach the Pacific Ocean and mountain man John Colter explores the Yellow Stone.
In 1809, the year Charles Darwin is born, The "Phoenix," the largest ocean going
steamboat in the world, left New York Harbor for Philadelphia. The Native America
people are starting to be moved to reservations with the relocation of the Navahos. In
1811, just as work on the Cumberland Road was beginning, a steamboat made its
appearance on the Ohio river. This vessel, the "New Orleans," was built at Pittsburgh
by Nicholas Roosevelt of New York, an ancestor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt
In 1812 War Bonds are authorized by the U.S. government for the first time and the
county and Great Britain clash in the War of 1812. Charles Dickens is born that year.
As the rural south is beginning to grow and develop around the King Cotton, we are
seeing some the early days of an area and culture that would play a huge roll in the
birth and evolution of music in the United States. Also, the South was seeing the new
church gores that had moved south to create their new churches, where much of the
music of the new nation was for sure being born.
During the 1800's, as the church movement grew and there were more and more
congregations, revivals and camp meetings, this organized music was probably the
number one place in the new nation to enjoy music. This fellowship at the camp
meetings and revivals offered folks a place to sing. Music grew and became a big
part of the religious movement and the growth of this country, especially in the south
where the blacks brought much of their culture from west Africa, where singing was
a big part of their life into the Church.
Religious music was central to the lives of the rural southerners. It was in the church
where most rural southern folks first learned to sing. In the early days of the colonies
the "British religious" groups were moving throughout influencing folks and very sup-
portive of music in their churches. The Church of England was becoming very estab-
lished throughout the Eastern United States. The Baptists and the Methodists were
the dominate religions moving into the rural areas of the country and promoted the
religious music. It was the singing that was giving most of these people the good
feeling and kept them coming back to the revivals and camp meetings.
In 1810, P.T. Barnum is born, and would become the top promoter of the century.
In 1813 David Melville of Newport, Rhode patented the gas street light. The following
year "The Stars Spangled Banner" is written. The new country is becoming more
independent in 1814 when Andrew Jackson defeats the British at New Orleans.
In 1815 Hackaliah Bailey purchased an elephant named Old Bet from a sea captain
for $1,000. Hackaliah had such success in presenting Old Bet to the local towns
people and farmers, he arranged to purchase additional exotic animals. As 1816
rolls along we see "The Washington," the first stately double-decker steamboat
launched in Wheeling, WV and the following year a street in Baltimore become the first
street in the US to become lighted with gas from America's first gas company and then
the following year the first electric street light ever installed by a municipality is turned
on in Wabash, Indiana as the 49th parallel is agreed upon as the border between the
United States and Canada.
Camp meetings in Kentucky and the revivals of the southern Protestants continue to
sweep music to more and more people. House parties where the fiddle was the
instrument most used. In 1819 the steamship makes its first Transatlantic voyage
and Spain secedes Florida to the U.S. In New York City W.K. Clarkson, Jr. patents
the bicycle. A business that would become a subculture itself was growing. It is said
that the term "cowboy" came about around 1820. The following year William Becknell
blazed the Santa Fe Trail from Independence, Mo. to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
There was a new American music being born around the campfires at night and in
the homes of the settlers who sang and passed songs within the family. As folks
headed West, they took songs with them down the rivers and across the land. The
blacks were singing and dancing in their churches, while unknown minstrels and
troubadours were roaming the land. The reformers, separatists, puritans and rulers
still didn't like all this music and associated it with disorderly conduct, drinking and
In 1823, the first steam ship travels up the Mississippi River. It is said that the first
circus was performed in a tent around this time and Stephen Austin establishes the
first American settlement in Tejas (Texas). Also this year President James Monroe
proclaims the "Monroe Doctrine" against European intervention in the Americas. The
American culture is moving and taking on more form in the West. By 1824 the period
of the "Mountain men" was beginning and was to last until 1840. Jim Bridger, a young
scout for the Ashley expedition, becomes perhaps the first white man to see the Great
Salt Lake, and in 1825, the first "rendezvous" of mountain men was held in the Rocky
Mountains. There are stories around these time of the jug bands and music that was
developing in the South. In 1825 John Stevens, then seventy-five years old, had con-
structed a locomotive with a multi-tubular boiler, which he operated over a circular track
on his estate at Hoboken
In 1826 J.H. Hackett of New York debuted in "Love in a Village" at the Park Theater
in New York city. That year Samuel Morey of Oxford, New Hampshire patented the
internal combustion engine. Much of this culture was beginning to speed up. Horse
races were becoming a form of entertainment. Settlements are moving into the lands
owned by the Native American people. In 1828 the Cherokees of Arkansas agree to
give up their land and settle in the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi. In these
years it is said that minstrels and troubadours taking small change for their music,
we are seeing the beginning of the professional country musician. In the churches the
blacks are giving rise to gospel music, and in the fields the slave music would become
the black music known as blues.
In 1830, Joe Sweeney invented the 5 string banjo, and that same year The Indian
Removal Act is signed and tens of thousands of Indians moved to Oklahoma is called
the "Trail of Tears." Plans for the city of Chicago is laid out and Joseph Smith pub-
lishes Book of Mormon and establishes the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints.
In August of that year the, "Tom Thumb" locomotive, designed by Peter Cooper, a New
York inventor, made a successful trip of thirteen miles from Baltimore to Ellicott's Mills,
Maryland. The first locomotive built in America was the "Best Friend of Charleston,"
constructed for the South Carolina Railway and put into use on that road in 1830. The
early locomotion was by horses pulling the carts on tracks, pulleys were used and wind
was experimented with.
On the 17th October 1831, Michael Faraday demonstrated that passing a magnet
through a coil of wire could produce electricity and from that simple experiment began
the birth of a new era, the Electrical age. This new age of inventions were in compet-
ition with the well established steam engines and gas lighting. In the early days this
caused much mistrust and rejection of electricity's possibilities. There were many
claims made of the harmful effects of using electricity; causing headaches, skin dis-
orders and the onset of allergies being touted by the gas and steam industries. The
first bank robbery in America reported. The City Bank of New York City lost $245,000
in the heist. The New York and Harlem Railway was incorporated in New York City. Sir
James Clark, English navigator/explorer, discovered magnetic North Pole while on
Arctic exploration. Lewis Carroll is born and the first street car service is started in
New York. Change is in the wind.
In 1833 C.F. Martin began making Martin guitars. Samuel Morse demonstrates the
first device to send signals over wires. July, 1834, a steam engine capable of
hauling train cars was used, so making it possible to dispense with the horses.
Before long President Andrew Jackson boarded a B&O train and became the first
president to ride on a train. With these and other technological inventions we are see-
ing the beginning sparks of a new industrial culture.
The new movement of the culture via the
train would begin to move people and
equipment further West, and would allow
for the further development of the Nation.
As the rail road and the train took more
people and tools to build a nation to places
unsettled, we began to see now only a new
country grow, but the railroad culture began.
The railroad began to give another way for
people and the music and instruments to
travel and spread. Around the railroad in
the south we began to see a new music
Some of the early roots of blues and hillbilly music can be found around the world
of the railroad. The railroad workers would sing around the stations and the tracks.
The hobos sang and carried the music to other places. Down the road we will tell
the story of the "singing brakeman," a brakeman named Jimmie Rodgers that rode
the rail and was a huge influence in the music business.
In 1835 the Spanish Civil war begins. In the US "Turkey in the Straw," is published
first as "Zip coon." This year Mexican President Santa Anna proclaims himself
dictator and the Texas War for Independence begins. Samuel Colt patents revolving
breech pistol for fighting Indians. The Texas Rangers are formed and there is the
first battle of the Texas Revolution.
The new country is seeing the southern frontier give way to more settled agricultural
way of life and the new frontier is the West. Music is growing in the churches and
the fiddle and the banjo are the major instruments being used at house parties. It
was documented that A.B. Longstreet has a "country dance" in Georgia at a farmers
house. A fiddler kept the party going for hours. In these early days of music the
fiddle and banjo might be joined by the harmonica, sometimes a piano or parlor organ
and the guitar. These social functions grew through time and music became an impor-
tant part of people's lives. Many of the fiddle tunes were genuine folk melodies whose
authorship was not even known. Some like "Old Molly Hare," "Soldier's Joy," "Irish
Washwoman," or "Molly, Put the Kettle On," were of British origin. Many of the new
songs were growing out of the new frontier experiences and referring to certain place
like , "Cripple Creek," or "Natchez Under the Hill," Black fiddlers were in the South, but
it was the Black-face minstrels that performed many of the fiddle tunes.
The new country is still in formation. "Remember the Alamo," General Sam Houston
and his Texas capture Santa Anna at the battle of the Alamo. Davy Crockette dies.
There is Meeting at Washington-on-the-Brazos. Sam Houston becomes the Presi-
dent of Texas. The Long Island Rail Road begins operation and Morse builds his first
functional telegraph instrument. It is told that there are thousands of horses running wild
from Texas to California by 1836. The next year President Jackson recognizes the
Republic of Texas. Texas itself is beginning to play a big roll in the evolution of a culture
and the music that is being born. Between the railroad and the cattle and horse bus-
iness that is developing we would begin to see the roots of "Western Music."
In 1838 the telegraph was demonstrated for the first time in public in Morristown, NJ. by
Samuel Morse. Kansas City is founded on a hill overlooking a bend in the Missouri
River. Two British steamers arrive at New York April 23 after the first trans-Atlantic cross-
ings by ships powered entirely by steam.
We would love your help continuing this story...if you have any important dates, or
stories about the pioneers in the evolution of the music and entertainment business
send them to us and we will add to KICKIN' UP DUST, and add you to our link page.
© 1997-2019 Benford E. Standley. All Rights Reserved.
This can in no way be copied or distributed.
COWBOYS AND THE WEST